I would like to post a picture here, but &*%#$ing Blogger won't let me. So go visit the Amazon page and soak in the glorious treacly goo that is Tiger Lily by Shirlee Busbee.
The boozoom, the lace, the weirdly orange hair, the riding boots, the font. Gah!
OK, except that what's really striking about this cover, is that it is an EXCELLENT depiction of what's between the covers of the book. Leap into the unbridled silliness that is Historical Romance circa 1985.
Hey, please note here that I am NOT snarking on this book. I like it exactly for what it is--the goofiest possible rendition of Spanish Texas, a love story bursting with metaphor, and physical descriptions which cannot end nor include a period, as can be wrapped up in 452 pages of the English language.
I actually had wanted to read Gypsy Lady, which I'm kind of thinking that maybe I remember as being the Busbee that I liked, but then I got Spanish Rose at a Library Sale, and sitting next to it, was Tiger Lily, so hey, into the bag you go.
(At the time I had remembered Tiger Lily as the book wherein a heroine is trapped on the second floor of a southern plantation house while her husband is searching the estate for the Eeeevul Villain. Eeeevul Villain, unbeknownst to our lovers, has snuck into the plantation house and rapes the heroine, using the line that will NOT get out of my head after twenty years, "Give me some cream." Bleggggghhhh! I wanted to see if the scene is just as awful as I remembered, but when I skimmed Tiger Lily there was no such rape scene, so I decided to read it.)
How perfectly insanely goofy is this thing?
Meet Senorita Sabrina. Meet Senor Brett. Yes. Brett. Quite Spanish a name, no? Sabrina is the daughter of a wealthy Spanish landowner. Brett is the older step-son of Sabrina's aunt who is married to--oh, forget it. It's just too complicated to be believed. They know each other, OK?
They first meet when Sabrina is seven and Brett is, OK, let's see here. Chapter Two. Yes. Brett is eighteen. They fall for each other.
Ewwwww. I'm sorry. An eighteen year old guy and a SEVEN YEAR OLD? I can see if she had a crush on him, but Brett is shown as being attracted to her. Page 20:
Her eyes huge, her own red-gold hair flame-colored in the sunlight, she demanded, "You will truly call him that? You will use the name I chose?"
Unable to help himself, Brett flicked a caressing finger down her cheek. "Naturally. What gentleman could refuse such a lovely lady?"
Aiiii! She's seven! Ewwwww. OK, deep breaths. I can get past this bizarre prologue/early section and chalk it up to laying a groundwork for early infatuation. Move On.
The next time they meet, Sabrina is turning seventeen, and her father has just decided that he should invite Brett to the hacienda for an extended visit. This way the two will fall in love, marry, and then the father won't have to worry about his daughter when he dies. (Ummm. Yeah. You got a Plan B there Dad?) She races her horse across a meadow, and Brett, who's just arrived, thinks she's on a runaway horse and so tries to rescue her. (Note: By dragging her off a galloping horse onto his galloping horse? Wow. There's a good way to give you and the victim a handy concussion.) She reacts by stabbing him in the arm while draped across the front of the saddle.
Dancing, I am! I love this shit! The feverish writing here just needs to breathe on the page. I was Squealing when I read this:
Cruelly twisting the arm behind Sabrina's back, he glared down into the angry features so near his own. Astonishment held him speechless as his stunned gaze took in the disheveled mass of flaming curls rioting around the most enchanting face he had ever seen--thickly lashed amber-gold eyes fairly spitting defiance and fury were set under haughty dark brows, a delicate nose with a delightful tilt at the tip was thrust arrogantly into the air, and below it was a generously curved mouth that fairly challenged any man to taste its sweetness.
It was that glorious hair and those unforgettable eyes that brought recognition to him almost instantaneously, and on a note of incredulity, the breathed, "Sabrina?"
Oh shit. This is too damn good. Exactly how long is instantaneously? Because, um, you know dude, I can't read that sentence out loud without gasping for breath. And why so shocked? You are visiting her father's house; she might just be there. But wait, there's more. Next paragraph:
At the sound of her name, Sabrina froze, and suddenly oblivious to the brutal hold on her arm, she stared up into the dark bearded face so near her own. It wasn't precisely reassuring. Heavy black eyebrows curved sardonically over deep-set, cynical, jade-green eyes ringed by remarkably long, thick, black, lashes--the impact of those eyes was mesmerizing. With an effort she tore her gaze away from his and swiftly took in the arrogant nose, the slightly flaring nostrils, and the full, mobile mouth with its mocking slant. The half-grown beard hid most of his face, but with her heart unexpectedly racing in her breast, her gaze once more fastened on the hard green eyes--green eyes that she had never quite forgotten. "Senor Brett?" she got out huskily, unable to believe it was really he.
Sixty-six pages in and they finally make eye contact and recognize each other. I guess the stabbing and the galloping horses helped jar the memory a touch.
I cannot begin to express how much I loved reading this. There are vengeful mothers, jealous pansy-boys, a fake pregnancy, scheming ex-mistresses, an almost rape, a cockney valet (in a Spanish Texas setting? Yeah. I dunno either.) The plot is, well, complex. And silly. Did I mention that after the horse ride, Brett and Sabrina do fall madly in love and Brett proposes?
Well, you'd expect that. But what you didn't expect, (ho ho!) was that Sabrina would reject his suit and that they would be separated for another six years.
Now wait just a goddamn minute. At this point I started trying to find the end page, because, um, it's a 452 page book, and we're only at page 265. What I didn't realize was that we had to get the Political Sub-Plot in. Because what's a romance novel without a political info-dump? Or a spy ring? And valets with attrocious fake English accents? (Oh, THAT'S why he has a valet!!)
Suffering succotash. By the time these two get together again, Brett has grey hair at his temples. (Counting on fingers, seven plus ten plus six. OK, Sabrina's twenty-three, so that makes Brett thirty-four?) So they get married, she gets pregnant, all is well, but, hmmmm, we're not at the end yet. Suisan is beginning to suspect the need for a kidnapping--my least favorite 1980's plot extender. No, no Suisan. You little fool. No Kidnapping Here!
A Fire!! A Fucking Fire! With pregnant Sabrina trapped in the mansion as beams crash down around her head! Quick, Brett! Save Sabrina! Last sentence. Phew!
But then, with a final, instinctive lurch, Sabrina unconscious in his arms, he staggered out of the house, into the night, the cool air that rushed to meet them a balm and a benediction.
Yay!! Curtain calls! Cue the orchestra!
Ooops. Nope. Wait a sec. An Epilogue.
An Epilogue! A Fucking Epilogue! Because there's MORE to this story. More flaming hair, more sardonic brows, more declarations of love, more, and more and more.
Help MEEE!! It's the plot that ate Cleveland! I'm laughing so hard I'm giving myself a stoamch-ache! Make it stop! The lovers won't stop mooning over each other! They're going to trip on their tongues, lolling out of their mouths like that.
That was one hell of a roller-coaster ride. I tried to read Spanish Rose, but when the little Spanish minx started stomping her little Spanish boot on the deck of her evil brother's Spanish galleon after she had stowed away to prevent a marriage to a Nasty Spanish Man, I just gave it up. Too many funnel cakes at the carnival.
Hoooo-boy. That there's one hell of a ride, though. No wonder I liked Shirlee Busbee so much.